Weekend Box Office (June 17 - 19, 2011)

by Gitesh Pandya

THIS WEEKEND The super hero summer continued with the third comic book film of the season debuting at number one as Green Lantern shot to the top of the box office with a less-than-stellar opening weekend of $53.2M, according to final studio figures. The pricey Warner Bros. release averaged $13,935 from 3,816 theaters including ones offering the PG-13 film in 3D with extra surcharges. Although the amount of the weekend take would be welcomed by most films, Lantern carried a reported pricetag of about $200M plus was backed by one of the most expensive marketing campaigns of any summer movie so far.

Directed by Martin Campbell (Goldeneye, Casino Royale), Green Lantern starred Ryan Reynolds as the title character and was panned by critics across the board. Moviegoers also were not impressed as the CinemaScore grade was only a B. Generally, a B+ or better indicates that a large segment enjoyed a film. Poor reviews and bad buzz led to instantly negative word-of-mouth which hurt ticket sales immediately.

Opening day Friday delivered a solid $21.4M including $3.35M from Thursday night's post-midnight shows. But Saturday fell a disturbing 22% to $16.7M though a slim 9% Sunday decline to $15.1M was helped in part by Father's Day. This summer's well-reviewed super hero films Thor and X-Men: First Class both fared better with audiences. Each dipped by only 8% on Saturday and scored a B+ CinemaScore. More students were out of school for Lantern's opening day, but the Saturday fall was still very troubling.

With bad reviews, an alarming Saturday decline, and a low audience score, it seems that Green Lantern will burn out quickly at the box office. Even 3D did not help too much as only 45% of the weekend gross came from those screens. That was a lower rate than Thor's 60% and The Green Hornet's 61% and more in line with the 46% of Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides. The Hal Jordan film played as expected to the demographic most familiar with the character - adult men. Males made up 64% of the crowd while 63% were over 25. Generating true excitement with teens and younger adults has been a consistent problem for all Hollywood studios this year.

For the Friday-to-Sunday opening weekend, Green Lantern managed to fall behind the $55.1M of the recent X-Men reboot from just two weeks ago and was far from the $65.7M bow of Thor from the first weekend of May. Moviegoers may only have an appetite for so many comic book flicks and three big ones within seven weeks may have been too much. Lantern had arguably the biggest character among the three and certainly the most starpower with Blake Lively, Tim Robbins, and the voice of Geoffrey Rush all in the same package. Next month's Captain America will face challenges of its own being another 3D introduction of a new big-screen hero.

Warner Bros. was keen on developing Green Lantern as a franchise that could spawn lucrative sequels in the years ahead. Those hopes, however, were not crushed this weekend as super hero films are designed to be rebooted over time. Superman, Batman, and The Hulk all saw their movie franchises crash and burn, only to be resurrected later with new directors and lead actors.

Overseas, Green Lantern debuted in a dozen or so markets - many small - and grossed a moderate $17M with about half of that coming from the U.K. and Russia. As a very American super hero character, it may not generate the types of numbers overseas that recent summer action tentpoles have.

On the other end of the word-of-mouth spectrum, Super 8 posted a remarkable hold in its second weekend dipping only 39% to $21.5M. Paramount's $50M production has collected a solid $73M in its first ten days and could be headed for the vicinity of $130M allowing it to possibly outgross Green Lantern at the end of the day, at a fraction of the cost. The J.J. Abrams-directed action drama rolled into more of the international marketplace with debuts in 20 more territories for a weekend estimate of $12.5M from 29 total markets led by a number one opening in the increasingly crucial market of Russia. Super 8 is showing that a well-made summer action film with a moderate pricetag can go a long way, even without bells and whistles.

Jim Carrey's new family comedy Mr. Popper's Penguins debuted in third place with a respectable bow grossing $18.4M. The PG-rated film averaged $5,524 from 3,339 locations and earned somewhat negative reviews from critics. Females made up 56% of the crowd while 58% was under 25. The Fox release about a man that inherits wacky penguins from his dad increased by a scant 2% from Friday to Saturday and will have Cars 2 from the Pixar juggernaut to compete with next weekend so the road ahead will not be an easy one. But with more children getting out of school for the summer each day this week, midweek sales could be solid.

The ensemble super hero flick X-Men: First Class finished fourth with $11.9M falling 51% in its third round. Fox has gathered $120.4M in 17 days and is still aiming to end in the $145-150M range. The origin pic grossed an estimated $21.2M overseas this weekend boosting that tally to $163.2M and the global gross to $283M.

Two big worldwide hits followed. The Hangover Part II fell 43% to $10.1M boosting the domestic cume to $233.1M for Warner Bros. The raunchy sequel collected an estimated $22.4M offshore for a muscular international total of $257.6M. The global gross now stands at $490M surpassing its predecessor to become the world's top-grossing R-rated comedy ever. Paramount's 3D toon Kung Fu Panda 2 grossed $9M, off 45%, giving the DreamWorks sequel $143.7M to date. Overseas, where the Jack Black film ranks number one this weekend, kicked in an additional $52.5M for an international take of $280M to date led by China's exceptional $77M.

Slipping by a small margin once again, Universal's sleeper hit Bridesmaids dipped 30% to $7.1M lifting the sum to $136.5M. Disney's Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides followed with $6.6M, down 39%, for a $220.7M cume from North America. Overseas markets contributed an estimated $25.9M pushing the international take to a towering $731.9M. That makes the Johnny Depp sequel the fourth biggest overseas blockbuster in box office history trailing just Avatar, Titanic, and the final Lord of the Rings pic which it will surpass at the end of this week. With an eye-popping $952M globally, Tides will break the magic $1 billion mark before the end of this month.

With only a slight expansion, Woody Allen's Midnight in Paris continued to hold up very well slipping a mere 16% to $4.9M giving Sony Classics $21.4M to date. It could very well double that amount by the end of its run. Judy Moody and the Not Bummer Summer fell apart in its second weekend tumbling 65% to $2.1M for a $11M total.

In moderate release, the critically-panned teen romance The Art of Getting By stumbled in its debut opening to $679,160 from 610 theaters for a weak $1,113 average. Starring Freddie Highmore and Emma Roberts, the Fox Searchlight release didn't win much acclaim from critics cutting into its potential with arthouse moviegoers. The Irish dancing documentary Jig was impressive in its limited debut grossing $65,000 from solo sites in five major markets for a solid $13,000 average. Reviews for the Screen Media title were mixed but generally positive.

The top ten films grossed $144.9M which was down 23% from last year when Toy Story 3 opened in the top spot with $110.3M; but up 4% from 2009 when The Proposal with Ryan Reynolds opened at number one with $33.6M.

Compared to projections, Green Lantern opened below my $61M forecast while Mr. Popper's Penguins was on target with my $19M prediction.

Get earlier box office updates and analysis by following BoxOfficeGuru.com on Twitter.

Check the UPDATED chart for the Top June Openings.

For a review of Green Lantern visit The Chief Report.

Be sure to check back on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend when Cars 2 and Bad Teacher both open.

Marketplace - Shop for DVDs, electronics, books, and posters at discounted prices:

# Title Jun 17 - 19 Jun 10 - 12 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Distributor
1 Green Lantern $ 53,174,303 3,816 1 $ 13,935 $ 53,174,303 Warner Bros.
2 Super 8 21,472,020 35,451,168 -39.4 3,408 2 6,300 73,002,809 Paramount
3 Mr. Popper's Penguins 18,445,355 3,339 1 5,524 18,445,355 Fox
4 X-Men: First Class 11,933,524 24,128,986 -50.5 3,375 3 3,536 120,358,086 Fox
5 The Hangover Part II 10,071,339 17,667,329 -43.0 3,460 4 2,911 233,110,617 Warner Bros.
6 Kung Fu Panda 2 9,027,671 16,543,166 -45.4 3,469 4 2,602 143,670,468 Paramount
7 Bridesmaids 7,097,735 10,066,290 -29.5 2,573 6 2,759 136,450,725 Universal
8 Pirates of the Caribbean: OST 6,646,249 10,945,764 -39.3 2,742 5 2,424 220,746,502 Disney
9 Midnight in Paris 4,884,800 5,830,723 -16.2 1,038 5 4,706 21,446,614 Sony Classics
10 Judy Moody and the Not Bummer Summer 2,103,465 6,076,859 -65.4 2,524 2 833 11,029,307 Relativity
11 The Tree of Life 1,163,923 618,291 88.2 115 3 10,121 3,900,355 Fox Searchlight
12 Thor 1,145,076 2,435,215 -53.0 875 6 1,309 176,111,078 Paramount
13 Fast Five 872,160 1,727,330 -49.5 735 7 1,187 206,816,880 Universal
14 The Art of Getting By 679,160 610 1 1,113 679,160 Fox Searchlight
15 Rio 517,653 738,518 -29.9 408 9 1,269 138,725,044 Fox
16 Beginners 354,948 243,059 46.0 44 3 8,067 909,124 Focus
17 Water for Elephants 305,177 478,835 -36.3 351 9 869 57,192,169 Fox
18 Soul Surfer 243,234 295,371 -17.7 264 11 921 42,638,646 Sony
19 Cave of Forgotten Dreams 241,045 261,390 -7.8 116 8 2,078 4,138,016 IFC Films
20 Born To Be Wild 219,833 204,253 7.6 47 11 4,677 7,240,529 Warner Bros.
Top 5 $ 115,096,541 $ 104,736,413 9.9
Top 10 144,856,461 130,872,830 10.7
Top 20 150,598,670 134,965,590 11.6
Top 20 vs. 2010 150,598,670 195,576,153 -23.0

Last Updated: June 20, 2011 at 4:30PM ET

Watch Gitesh Pandya's weekly box office preview on CNN International airing live each Thursday at 7:40pm ET.